From the Bookshelf: “The Word Became Flesh”

With stacks of unread books collecting dust in our bookshelves, Brad and I have decided not to buy any new ones until we’ve read all the ones we’ve already got (yeah right..!). So rummaging through a pile in the beginning of the year, I found what has become my devotional book for this year: “The Word Became Flesh”, by Dr. E. Stanley Jones.

“So who is this Dr. Jones?”, I hear you ask.

For more than half a century, Dr. E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) lived and worked in India, with a mission to bring “reconciliation between man and God, man and man, and man with himself”. In a time when Christian mission was too often entangled in the etnocentric imperialism that followed in the wake of European colonialism, Dr. Jones was characterised by a respect for the diverse Indian culture, and placed value on the native religions and philosophies. He became well-known for leading interreligious dialogues and lectures in the educated classes, as well as serving the very lowest casts. In 1925 Dr. Jones penned what he had taught and what he had learned in India in a report back home. The report was published under the title “Christ of the Indian Road” and sparked immense interest in seminars, churches and homes, selling over a million copies worldwide. But Dr. Jones’ impact went farther than the Christian circles. Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, Dr. Jones was an advisor to both President Roosevelt and Japanese leaders, attempting to advert war between the two nations. He was hailed as an “apostle of peace” and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation work in Asia, Africa and between Japan and USA.

Below is an excerpt from “The Word Became Flesh” (my very freelance translation from the Swedish!):

Words get their meaning from life and the environment we find ourselves in. […] If I were to use the word “home” in front of an audience, it would mean “heaven” to some and “hell” to others, depending on the circumstances they associate with that particular word. Literature cannot encompass more than life. It is life that gives content and meaning to literature. Suppose God gave us a book from heaven wherein all his will was written down – would that give us a perfect and complete picture of him? Hardly. We would only read into the words our best experience of them. If I were to see the word “love” in the book, I would put into it my highest experience of love. But my highest experience of love is not love – it is merely my highest experience of it, and it is partial and incomplete. […] We would all judge the words after the best of our experiences, and the book would therefor reveal more about us than about God. What, then, do we need to get a full revelation of God? We need a life, a Divine Life who lifts the words from the level where we have placed them and fills them with a new meaning – a Divine meaning […] We believe this has happened. A Life came among us and was lived openly before all… We no longer see “love'” in the light of our own poor, one-sided love, but in the light of a love that on a cross prayed for the enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The word love became flesh.

Amen, Brother Stanley. And thanks for reading all of this, my peeps! //s.

It’s A Woman’s Right

Today I thought I’d share a chunk of text with you from my commute literature The RevolutionA Field Manual For Changing Your World. The book is a compilation of essays in different current topics, ranging from Fair Trade and human trafficking, to torture and gang violence, written by activists, directors and organisers who know and live what they’re talking about. And while the word revolution has been used til its red colour’s faded during the past few years, the burning issues leave you with an aftertaste of craving to do just that: change the world. Nothing less my friends.

The following excerpt is taken from chapter 3, Women’s Rights:

In a small town in rural China, government officials and others came for Hu Shuye. She describes thirty or forty people coming to her home and dragging her away for an abortion. She had broken the law by becoming pregnant again, a violation of the government-mandated “one child per couple” policy. Her penalty was forced abortion when she was six month pregnant, followed in a few months by forced sterilization.

I am six months pregnant myself and those who’ve seen me recently know how big and mature and alive this baby is inside of me. This is Women’s Rights – from a different angle.

Authentic Section 1 – Sara’s Take

So this booked turned out to be exactly as difficult to get through as I thought. First couple of pages were all fine and warm-up, but then suddenly, 3 quizzes! And I’m not talking about the multiple choice no-brainers, no sir. I’m talking gut-wrentching honest questions like: How easy is it for you to tell people when they’ve hurt or upset you? Would you say you have a good and healthy relationship with your dad/mum? What are the greatest threats to your relationships at the moment?

Sounds like a therapy book, doesn’t it? Yes, which is why I’ve dodged it, and why I think lots of people, including me, stay clear of anything that can be stuck in the Self-help section at Waterstones (I would have said Borders here but, alas, they are no more!). I’d like to think I’m pretty ok at relationships. I’m a woman, for goodness’ sake! And our marriage is great, and an oasis of peace, compared to our first turbulent get-accustomed-to-eachother’s-habits first year! So why the therapeutic literature?

In a survey made by the author, these two significant views emerged:

97.5% of the respondents admitted their relationships could be improved
64% didn’t think they gave enough time to their close friendships

It seems as if, when we reflect on it, most of us agree that relationships are a vital part of human life. It’s the very fabric of society and what makes us human. Whatever we do for a living, wherever we end up in life, we will always deal with and through relationships. So it sounds a bit funny when people, me included, say “Oh, I’d love a job where I can work with people”, because, essentially, we all have to. From the diplomat to the mechanic, the professor and the hairdresser…and even the freelance translator working from home! It’s all relational. And to a very large extent, our success in our jobs depends on our success in our work relationships.

Anthropologists believe that an individual doesn’t fully develop as a person with a distinct personality unless they interact with other individuals. It is in that meeting, in that exchange, that we find out who we are. All these good reasons put together, we figure it’s a good thing to see how what we can do to improve in this area! Bigger, better, faster, stronger! Fine, lets’ not overdo it. Over and out.

Kazuo Ishiguro – When We Were Orphans, 2000

In my study of postcolonial writers and the themes they explore through their work, I’ve started reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain with his parents in 1960. His parents thought that they would soon return to Japan, and Ishiguro grew up straddling two societies: the Japan of his parents and of his early years, and their adopted country Britain.

Some reoccurring themes in his novels are the past and the necessity to go back, nostalgia for a lost world or childhood, and the inability to break free from the past in order to embrace the freedom of the future. All this is a strong undercurrent in When We Were Orphans, as the main character and narrator, Christopher Banks, leads us, starting in London’s 1930’s high society, through the events of his past and to an impressive climax in a war-torn Shanghai.

Banks’ voice is quite detached and matter-of-fact, and yet, as he recalls the memories of his childhood in Shanghai’s International Settlement and mixes them with events that have taken place only days ago, it is always as if he (and, in extension, we as readers) is chasing an intangible shadow which in the end consumes his whole being, preventing him from moving on. When he finally goes back to Shanghai to try and resolve the case of the disappearance of his parents, it is too late for him to successfully make the transition from looking back to the past, to looking forward to the future.

“(Our childhood)…it’s hardly a foreign land to me. In many ways, it’s where I’ve continued to live all my life. It’s only now I’ve started to make my journey from it.”

Despite it being rather sad, the story of Christopher Banks is a gripping multi-layered one, that urges you through the 300-odd pages to a rewarding end, where the faintest glimmer of hope can be perceived.